Of juvenile readers, books and their writers

| Updated: December 29, 2022 22:44:45

Children browse books at a stall in the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela in Dhaka —Xinhua Photo Children browse books at a stall in the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela in Dhaka —Xinhua Photo

How do the adolescents and youths pass their time nowadays? This question pops up in the minds of many in the enlightened segments of the country. Some of the observers are of the view that the members of this age-group love to remain engrossed in the digital media. Except for the school and college periods and meal times, a large percentage of them are found busy with the platforms of Facebook, Messenger, What'sApp, Imo, YouTube etc. They do not even go out into the field to spend some time playing or idle gossiping. The habit of remaining hooked on the social media outlets is becoming so widespread that it often becomes untamable. As time wears on, the parents of these teenagers and adult youths find themselves being incapable of extricating themselves from obsessive worries. When coming to their wards' future, the parents literally get panicked: whither their next phases of life?

In the 1960s or the 1970s, the land's children and youths used to pass their leisure time reading. In spite of the heyday of movies, only a handful of them showed interest in watching cinema. Although television sets had entered middle-class houses, many waiting to bring one to their drawing rooms or ante rooms, the 'idiot boxes' didn't appeal the boys or girls. To them, the programmes were mostly dull and drab. The children's programme had yet to be started being telecast on the TV. The transmission time back then, in Pakistan times, was much shorter than today's. With Monday being the 'no television day', it was the only TV station, run by the government, which was what the young audiences had to turn to. Private television channels had yet to start telecast. Against this monotonous backdrop, the youngsters, however, found the easy entry to the pastime reading. The supply of books was seemingly endless.

Back then, most of the Bangla juvenile books would come from Kolkata, the West Bengal capital. The shelves of the bookshops at Dhaka New Market would remain filled with Indian books. Along with the novels, short story collections and poetry anthologies for senior readers, book corners would remain crowded with juvenile readers, especially on Sunday, the then weekly holiday. According to the bygone days' book-worms, the most popular of the children's books of the time was the voluminous collection called 'Puja Barshiki'or Sharadiya Shonhkhya. Published by Dev Sahitya Kutir, the collection would print juvenile pieces written by Kolakata's celebrated writers. Apart from the Puja Barshiki, Dev Sahitya Kutir used to bring out some other annual collections. The authors' list included almost the same star-writers. Their pieces would be illustrated by a team of painters led by the legendary children's artist Protul. Besides Dev Sahitya Kutir, an institution in publishing Bangla juvenile books, a number of publication houses used to publish single books of different characters. They range from fairy tales, books of humorous subjects, juvenile thrillers etc. The 1960s was the golden period of Bangla juvenile literature based in Kolkata.

Dhaka began witnessing its juvenile book publication industry in the period after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. In a short time, the country saw the growth of a large group of writers authoring juvenile books --- as well as the country's noted prose writers and poets who dedicated their time to creating fantasy kingdoms for the Bangladesh children. They included Ahsan Habib, Farrukh Ahmed, Shamsur Rahman, Syed Shamsul Haq, Sukumar Barua, Ali Imam et al.

The time from the 1930s to`60s was a golden age of Bangla juvenile books in Kolakta. In the three decades, there were few writers who hadn't tried their hand at writing children's books. Starting with Rabindranath Tagore, Upendra Kishore Roy, Sukumar Roy, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Abonindranath Tagore,  Satyajit Roy to the modernists, the areas of this particular literature ranged from nursery rhymes, humorous stories, fantasies, fictions of adventures to travelogues; and the Kolkata-based modern writers included the celebrated authors like Samaresh Basu, Premendra Mitra, Buddhadev Bose, Sibram Chakraborty, Sunil Gangopaddhay, Shirshendu Mukhopaddhay, Syed Mustafa Siraj et al. In East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, the juvenile literature personalities, apart from a few mentioned earlier, included Jasim Uddin, Mohammad Nasir Uddin, Begum Sufia Kamal, Habibur Rahman, Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, Halima Khatun, Rokunuzzaman Khan, Aflatun, Rafiqul Haque Dadu Bhai  and many younger writers.

 Serious readers, and also writers, in Bengal have been seen growing through traditional phases. Most of them begin with prose, i.e. fairy tales and juvenile fantasies. Many would like to call them quasi-ghost stories and dismiss them as unsuitable for children. They encourage adolescent readers to pick books of adventure. But the younger readers who are drawn to adventure-dependent books are also invariably drawn to harmless detective tales. In the greater Bengal, there are few noted writers who have not, at one or another time, remained glued to thrillers or plain detective books. Sections of moralist parents are there in every society. They want to oversee their children's growing into adulthood by dictating every aspect of their lives --- ranging from what kind of dresses one should wear, what to read during pastime, their haircuts, to their games.

In this age of smart phones and the other digital wizardries, a teenage boy or girl cannot be restricted by closing their broad windows on their preferred worlds. Thus preventing children from picking detective fictions or watching their movie versions in the fear that they might become criminally bent by spending time on them is an instance of doing excesses. The social and teenage experts view these parental fiats as great hurdles to the children's normal growth. In many cases, these teenagers end up being loners or delinquents --- or familial rebels. By reading J K Rowling's popular fantasy series about the adventurous lad Harry Potter, young readers haven't been found yet anywhere in the world picking black magic in their later life.


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